Sept 1904- Mrs Ralston’s Chat About Autumn Clothes

This comes from the September 1904 issue of the Ladies Home Journal. What is most fascinating about this article, to me, is the sheer volume of the skirts of this year. Because the author knew she was writing to women homemakers she made sure to mention making over the previous season’s skirts- but warned of the difficulty of dressmaking these complicated skirts. How do you make a very fitted top portion and a hemline many, many yards wide? She suggests putting in panels.

She also talks about the “throwback” full sleeves, and trimmings, which are interesting. And how the new bodices fasten better up the back than the front.

I hope you enjoy this informative article. If you like it I will try to share more fashion illustrations next time so you can see the descriptions come to life!

The advance fashions for autumn and winter show more radical changes than for several years past, the new clothes for the coming winter seeming, in many instances, to be turned absolutely upside down. To begin with the sleeves which are always the barometer of styles, and more sensitive to change than any other portion of bodice, coat, blouse or wrap- the new ones are large at the top that is to say, immediately below the armholes, and are a return, in fact, in a somewhat modified degree, to the sleeves which were worn some twelve or fifteen years ago, the only difference being that in the new sleeves the large and full effect is carried to the elbow and not confined entirely to the upper part of the arm. From the elbow to the wrist they are entirely close and tight fitting. For the dressier gowns and blouses the upper parts of the sleeves are extremely fanciful, and are usually finished with a frill or a succession of frills. The more practical sleeves for every-day wear are usually made with either two or three puffs between the upper arm and the elbow – the first, or top puff, being larger in proportion than the other two, and the third puff ending in a frill at the elbow. In the majority of cases the deep cuffs are quite the length of the inner forearm, of a different material from the rest of the bodice, and usually correspond with the trimming of the bodice.

AS FOR the bodices themselves, they seem to be of two distinct kinds, one adapted to the slender woman, and the other to the stouter. For the former the soft, drooping style of bodice is used with the long, accentuated shoulder-line, and for the latter the bodice is more tightly fitting, and the trimmings more in accord with the flat fitted lines which are becoming to that style of figure.

The skirts are so full, and so much material is required in their making, that they may be said to be extreme in style. To be in the fashion your skirt must measure at least five yards around the hem, and, indeed, this is a most moderate and modest width, as many of the plaited and kilted skirts measure from eight to ten yards around the lower edge. To cut and fit a skirt in the new fashion is by no means an easy task, and even harder will be the method of adapting last year’s skirts into this year’s styles. However, it can be done by means of double ruffles and by the use of plaited, inserted panels in the back, front and sides. Let us first consider the entirely new skirts, and then it will be an easier matter to think how to make over the old ones. Most of the new skirts are circular–that is, eight skirts out of ten are, and the other two are possibly less gored at the top. The material, which was formerly cut out from the gores, is now let into plaits and fitted by this means to the figure. Of course, if the skirt is of heavy material the material can be readily cut away from beneath the plaits, but it goes without saying that a skirt must have a tremendous amount of fullness at the top to measure nine or ten yards at the lower edge. The question is how to arrange this fullness at the top so that it may be becoming to the figure. To make and to fit a skirt properly is to-day much the most difficult problem about a gown.

ALTHOUGH it is hard to explain, so intricate and difficult has the art of dressmaking become, it is easy to see that the charm and beauty of all the clothes this year lie in the infinite amount of detail work which has been put into the making of them. Take, for instance, alone the one matter of bands and stitching. You all know how much bands have been used for trimmings of gowns of every description for several years past. Well, the new style of bands show quite as much change as other parts of the gowns. The new bands are cut straight and bias, but they are not put on flat and plain as they formerly were, but are laid in narrow, straight plaits and put on to the clothes with a heading either at the top or the lower edge, or at both. Sometimes the bands are attached to the skirt with heavy cordings or pipings, these cords often being of a different material or color from the gown.

ANOTHER pretty trimming in the way of a band is a circular piece cut from two to three inches in depth and arranged with two rows of gathering through the centre, the top edge of the band being trimmed with a narrow satin piping arranged in a fancy design, preferably a geometrical one. The main points to bear in mind is that the trimming of skirts is inclined to elaborateness. Indeed, I may say it is “fussy.” Any number of ruffles and flounces are used. The new ones are much smaller than those of last year, and there are more of them — therefore, double or treble the quantity of material is needed.

The new skirts are considerably shorter, even for the very dressiest of house gowns.

The length of skirts continues more uniform, and a train or drop in the back is no longer seen. As a rule the new skirts are made to lie with evenness around the edge. For street and general utility gowns the short, round walking length is used even more than ever. The new short length is unusually pretty in the full shirred and kilted skirts.

THE most important part of the gown this year is the material. The amount now necessary for a gown is so great that it is difficult and cumbrous to handle, particularly when trimmings must be added. Expense, too, must be considered, as it is impossible to make a gown in the newest fashion with less than nine or ten yards of double-width material. Of taffeta, and materials of that width, from eighteen to twenty-four yards are necessary; of cloth, and the wider double width materials, from eight to twelve yards are required. This, perhaps, will convey more clearly the immense amount of fullness in the new skirts, sleeves and bodices,

COATS and jackets are shorter, and wraps are longer. To be more definite, the ordinary every-day coat and jacket to wear with the every-day gown is the short knee-length garment of last year. The newer coats do not come below the hips and may be said to measure from twenty-four to twenty-seven inches in length. They are made with closely-fitted backs, and fronts in the semi-fitting style, for the perfectly plain jacket and coat suits in the heavier-weight materials. But the coats to watch skirts, and the dressier coats to wear with the separate velvet or silk skirt, are made with short basque tails, the tails being cut with a slight ripple fullness. Indeed, these coats are, after all, boleros with small peplums, which are attached principally to give the effect of the Louis XVI period, after which so many of the new fashions are copied. For practical purposes the fancy boleros are not so useful as the shorter length coats.

The new winter coats are made mostly either of smooth kersey, melton, broadcloth, or of the Irish or Scotch tweeds. In many instances the double-faced cloths are used, in which case the trimmings are made of the linings. These double faced cloths are so heavy that coats made from them must be rather loose and somewhat longer in length than those of the smooth single-surface cloths.

THE newest feature of coats in general–that is to say, of the boleros, short coats and long three-quarter coats and wraps – is the full, broad effect of their shape, and therein lies their chief difference from the coats of last year. The breadth in last year’s coats was mostly at the shoulders, or in a certain broad arrangement of the trimming across the shoulders, but this year’s coat is really, in cut and make, broad from collar to edge. The cuffs of the new coats are quite as deep in proportion as are the new cuffs of the gowns and boleros. It therefore follows that the greater width of the coat sleeves must be above the elbow to accommodate the increased width of the sleeves of the gowns worn under the coats. The fullness in the sleeves of both cloth coats and gowns is not given by gathering in the material to the cuffband, as was the case with the bishop and leg-of-mutton sleeves, but is given by cutting it in two or more sections, these divisions running, in most cases, lengthwise, the seams being overlapped and stitched, thus giving a finished trimming to the sleeve. The cuffs are invariably long and close-fitting, except upon the short, dressy bolero coats, when the sleeves are often made only elbow length and finished with frills of mousseline.

THE new blouses seem to diverge into two directions- the fancy ones growing more fanciful and elaborate, and the simple ones becoming more simple and useful.

These latter are made with straight, plaited backs, the plaits being of the small size and arranged in clusters which hide the fastening down the centre back. It is really almost impossible to make one of the new shape blouses to look well fastening down the centre front, as the general shape and arrangement of the trimming needs all the length and breadth possible which, if the material were cut in the centre, for the fastening, would be greatly interfered with. The sleeves of the new blouses are put in very low on the shoulder and are made with the effect of a deep cuff. On the simple blouses the cuffs are not cut in a separate portion, but the deep cuff effect is given by oversewing or taking in, in a close-fitting shape, the entire forearm portion of the sleeve. The tops of the sleeves, even below the long shoulder seams, are usually finished with clusters of tucks and runnings, these clusters being arranged in the immediate centre of the sleeves and gradually tapering off at the sides.

1904 suit image from the advertisement on this page. National Cloak and Suit Company

1 Comment on Sept 1904- Mrs Ralston’s Chat About Autumn Clothes

  1. eimear
    September 13, 2020 at 2:40 am (4 years ago)

    what a wonderful article. I can imagine how inspiring it must have been for the ladies who were planning their winter wear

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.